Named by the Association of Perennial Plants (PPA) Schizachyruym Scoparium as in 2022 it is a perennial plant of the year. Others like me know this plant as Little Blue Stem. This plant is identified as grass and is native to Indiana. Not all gardeners value ornamental grasses because of their reputation for taking over the planted area or considering it aggressive.
Little Blue Stem is not one of these types of grasses. One is considered the least aggressive and grows in a lumpy form about 2-3 feet tall. For those who are prone to ornamental grasses, this can be attractive. Setting up this plant is easy. The seeds germinate in 1-3 weeks in spring or autumn. All you need is a warm day and moist soil. The foliage consists of flat leaves that are about 8 inches long and 1/4 wide. The flowering period begins in summer, with a bluish-green color, followed by copper and reddish hues after the first frost, and lasts throughout the winter. The fluffy, soft white seed heads of this grass also offer interesting views of the winter landscape. Don’t forget with the seed heads that the wind will scatter the seeds. You may want to sow the plant undesirably. Some choose to remove the seed heads before they mature to reduce spread. Little Blue Stem does not spread through its root system. If you are considering a container gardening method, it will not carry the potential for spread.
Pests and diseases of the plant are low risk. Fertilizers and other modification requirements are minimal. After about two years, the knot should be divided to maintain optimal growth and appearance.
I mentioned earlier that Little Blue Stem is a grass. It is a warm season grass and with it comes the benefits of wildlife. I love the herbs of the warm season because they do good in all seasons. The leaves of the grass serve as larval hosts for captain butterflies. It is used as food by grasshoppers, leaf funnels, prairie walking sticks, beetles and other small insects. The overwintering habitat provides surprise security for bumblebees. Certain quail and pheasant species serve as a camouflaged nesting source at the base of the cluster. Animals living on small ground transport the overhead cover from one place to another. And of course the songbirds are not forgotten either, and the seeds are used as a food source. Grasses in the warm season provide additional benefits to the soil. Grasses grow well in poor soils and can help with soil erosion. The deep root system stabilizes the soil. The roots can be 3-5 feet deep. They can also offer organic soil remediation.
The PPA chose Little Blue Stem as the perennial plant of the year because it had little maintenance, multiple seasonal interest, and was relatively pest- and disease-free. I love this grass because it is a native grass, increases the effort of wildlife, and is aesthetic, especially when accompanied by a conifer or liatris. Looking further afield, we can enjoy the subtle colors of blue and red, as well as the interesting capture of seed pods and foliage rocking in the wind. If you are a grassy person or want to try a new plant around, this may be the right plant. Seeds and starters can be purchased from seed catalogs or your local garden center.